SUNDAY, Dec. 7, 2008 - Jim Page (Queens neighborhood near La Guardia / Dutch artist Theo / Silvery salmon / Loser of a footrace with Hippomenes)
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Hey!" - letter string "PSST" in six theme answers, with the theme hinted at by 64A: Start of an announcement ... or a hint to what's hidden in the answers to the six starred clues ("Your attention, please!")
Just lost about half an hour's worth of writing when Firefox froze up on a Barbara Bain image search. I hate that %@#$! right now. Never want to see her face again.
Let's see - what did I say? The puzzle is fine. Solid. The theme is very straightforward, resulting in uniform answers (all third-person verb phrases), none of which are that memorable. Hard to find other kinds of phrases where "PSST" extends across two words. Is CRAPS STAKE a phrase? If so, it's not a good one. This puzzle's charm lies not in its theme, but in its professional fill, and particularly in the wide open NE and SW corners, which gave a feeling of expansiveness, room to breathe after the crowded, fussy feeling of the middle, with all its nooks, crannies, and small words. Best word in the NE: FRICASSEE (15D: Chicken dish). It's a word I learned from Looney Tunes, probably Bugs or Daffy or Yosemite Sam. I managed to track down an example of it in "Rabbit's Kin," featuring the hilariously-voiced Pete Puma. Enjoy.
- 23A: *Distinguishes (kee PSST raight)
- 33A: *Does a hostler's work (swee PSST alls)
- 48A: *Participates in a bear market (dum PSST ocks)
- 84A: *Plays at a pond, in a way (ski PSST ones)
- 99A: *Engages in some mutual gossip (swa PSST ories)
- 112A: *Commits knitting boo-boos (dro PSST itches)
There were a boatload of people in the puzzle, some gimmes, some Not.
- 40A: "Taking Heat" memoirist Fleischer (Ari) - gimme; former White House spokesperson
- 47A: "The Story-Teller" storyteller (Saki) - know the name, but did not know the story in question
- 52A: English actor Sir _____ Jacobi (Derek) - knew his name, didn't know how or why. Turns out he is a major Shakespearean actor. But if I'm being honest, I know him from "Gladiator" and "Gosford Park"
- 74A: Dutch artist Theo (Jansen) - no idea. He builds gigantic walking ("kinetic") sculptures that look like something out of "Dune" or "The Empire Strikes Back" - ART (92A: Emerson's "jealous mistress"), shmart; these things Must have practical military applications.
- 91A: "Dune" director David (Lynch) - no idea he directed that. He didn't enter my consciousness until "Blue Velvet," which blew my 18-year-old mind.
- 89A: Ellen of "Grey's Anatomy" (Pompeo) - if you say so. Never watched a single episode, and have absolutely no desire to. And I watch a lot of TV.
- 114A: Actress Annabella of "The Sopranos" (Sciorra) - her character had an affair with Tony
- 59D: Barbara of "Mission: Impossible" (Bain) - I want never to hear of her again. Only Conrad, from now on.
- 50D: Pulitzer winner for "Russia Leaves the War" (Kennan) - who what who? KENNAN JANSEN POMPEO were the Holy Trinity of WTF names today. From now on, I will refer to people unknown to me as being from DITMARS, as I've never heard of that either (107A: Queens neighborhood near La Guardia). It has the advantage of containing the word MARS, and thus suggesting that the answers are from outer space.
- 104D: "Lady T" singer _____ Marie (Teena) - I know exactly one song by her. It is called "Lover Girl." It came out right around the time of Billy Ocean's "Loverboy" ... mmm, high school. "A little birdie told me that you feel the sa-ee-ame!"
- 102A: Loser of a footrace with Hippomenes (Atalanta) - OK, not a real person, but a cool name nonetheless. I am always vaguely disturbed by that second "A"
The only way you know San YSIDRO (45A: San _____, locale just north of Tijuana, Mexico) is if a. you live near there, or b. you remember a horrible shooting that took place at a McDonald's there in the 80s. I have no idea if it is more or less famous than DITMARS.
Here's a brief tour of some of the more interesting sections of this puzzle. I nearly crashed the car trying to hang a UEY (63A: It may be illegal to hang one), because, I mean, really. Look at it. How often do you see ... that? It's a fine expression, and I've seen it several times in puzzles, but the odd clue had me stuck for a bit, esp. since the clue on UPN (63D: Bygone TV inits.) seemed vague to me, and I initially spelled DRYER (52D: Load bearer?) with an "I." Before I picked up the theme (or maybe it was after!) I had SELLS STOCKS instead of DUMPS STOCKS, which made the West a mess. Wanted LIMA where PERU is now (49D: Equatorial land), because I was 99.9% sure that LAOS wouldn't work. The finished West is kind of ugly, now that I look at it in the cold light of day. The dreaded, archaic, xword-only ADES (40D: Summer drinks) alongside the unappealing adjective RUTTY (41D: Like some dirt paths), along side a partial, I'M TOO (42D: "_____ old for this!") that Should have been clued differently ...
- 19A: Contact sport with a purification ritual (sumo) - good example of how valuable educated guessing is. Didn't know about this ritual thing, but SUMO was the only sport I considered. Four letters ... could have been JUDO or EPEE or POLO, I guess, but come on.
- 20A: Jobs offering of 1998 (iMac) - Jobs is Steve. I am typing on an iMac. It only *feels* like it's from 1998. Barbara Bain!! [shakes fist at sky]
- 28A: Brightest star in Auriga, from the Latin for "little she-goat" (Capella) - why the Latin help here? I remember having to get AURIGA from Capella in some brutal clue a couple of years ago. You'd think going in the other direction would be a little easier. Barbara Bain is a little she-goat.
- 30A: Plant with two seed leaves (dicot) - had DIPOD for a bit and was quite unhappy with DIPOD and APODAL (29D: Lacking limbs) being so close to each other.
- 55A: Card's insignia (STL) - baseball: the ST Louis CARDinals have these letters as one of their insignias.
- 93A: When said three times, a 1970 film (Tora) - never seen it, but a gimme nonetheless
- 115A: Brit's oath (gor!) - made me want to exclaim GOR, as I completely forgot about this "oath."
- 118A: Most grinchlike (meanest) - is "grinch" a non-Seussian word? Why isn't it capitalized?
- 119A: Merino mother (ewe) - I have several products made from NZ Merino wool. In fact, wife and I spent the most money we've Ever spent in an airport at a Merino store getting supernice high-end winter wear. I wore my world's-most-expensive non-DRESSY (56A: Formal) long-sleeve shirt Friday night, and my torso was the only part of me that wasn't uncomfortably cold. So Maybe spending our retirement in that store was a good idea after all (esp. considering the recent state of the market). Put everything in Merino!
- 9D: How to put a coin in a coin slot (edgeways) - I had EDGEWISE, which seemed unimpeachable to me.
- 90D: Plane seating specification (exit row) - I prefer these rows, as I am 6'3" and don't fit anywhere else. I'm sure there are upsides to being tall, but the fact that the Entire World is built for people 6-to-12 inches shorter than you is Not one of them. I am having to invest a lot of time, thought, and energy into NOT becoming a hunchback by age 60.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld